Can Daric Barton play his way back into Oakland's long-term plans at first base or has opportunity passed him by? (Photo credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America)

Triple Play: Daric Barton in 2012


Welcome to Swingin’ A’s Triple Play where we field one subject and turn it into three possible outcomes. My gut feeling on how things may pan out is at the end of the post where you can cast your vote in the monthly poll and sound off in the comments section.

IN PLAY: Daric Barton‘s 2012 season.

At one time Barton was a hyped prospect in the blockbuster Mark Mulder trade.  At this time a year ago he was a promising young player penciled in as Oakland’s everyday first baseman on the strength of a slick glove and a knack for getting on base while hitting for average.  Now he’s coming off a wildly disappointing 2011 campaign cut short by injury.  As Barton tries to salvage his career with the A’s, 2012 serves as a major turning point in determining his future as a big leaguer.

Of course, this whole post works under the major assumption that Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Collin Cowgill/Michael Taylor/Jermaine Mitchell/One of those kids in left field waving those big A’s flags run away with all the playing time in the outfield and Barton is left to fight it out with Chris CarterBrandon Allen and Kila Ka’aihue for at bats at DH and first base.

I know that may be a bit of a stretch, but just play along with me for a moment.  At the rate general manager Billy Beane is trading players we have to talk about the ones who are still here while we have a chance.

FIRST OUTCOME: Surviving and Thriving.

Spring training opens and look who’s already in Phoenix working out? It’s a lean, mean, focused Daric Barton.  Maybe he even has some wild tattoos and crazy looking facial hair because he’s been born again as a tough guy who’s ready to fight for a job.

He wins over manager Bob Melvin with his work ethic, stellar defense and disciplined approach at the plate. A lot of time in the batting cage with new hitting coach Chili Davis finally adds a little aggression and extra base power when Barton gets ahead in the count.

Throw in the fact that Carter, Allen and Ka’aihue spend all spring striking out at a frightening clip and Barton runs away with the first base job and everyone lives happily ever after and the Mulder trade continues to pay dividends.

SECOND OUTCOME: Get Comfy in Sacramento.

Barton comes to camp rusty and passive in the face of an open competition for playing time and never really clicks with the new coaching staff. He plays just well enough to be worth keeping in the organization but not well enough to start in Oakland or draw any interesting trade offers.

Barton heads to Sacramento where he sulks, nurses nagging injuries and puts up pedestrian numbers while “earning” a few callups to Oakland when half the roster inevitably ends up on the disabled list. The rare times Melvin plays him Barton does next to nothing and eventually fades into obscurity as the vague, forgotten “other guy” the A’s got from the Cardinals for Mulder along with Dan Haren and Kiko Calero.

THIRD OUTCOME: The Grass is Greener On Someone Else’s Infield.

Barton makes a good showing in Phoenix but management falls in love with Carter, Allen and Ka’aihue who post big numbers in the dry desert air where breaking balls don’t really break and fly balls carry a country mile.

The time comes to trim the roster and Beane decides to clear the first base glut by trading Barton for someone else’s final spring training cut.

Barton packs his bags and thrives in a new environment. Who knows? He may even end up playing a key role for a surprise playoff team and the national media will jump all over the fact that Barton used to be a hot prospect who finally made good after being thrown away by the apparently-not-so-brillaint-anymore Moneyball A’s.

Meanwhile in Oakland Carter, Allen and Ka’aihue spend the entire season striking out left and right, proving that what they did in the spring was simply a desert mirage and the fringe prospect acquired in the Barton deal never amounts to anything.

MY CALL: If you caught me a week ago when I was kind of annoyed with the state of the A’s, I’d say I’m going with the Third Outcome.  But right now I’m in a good mood so I’m going to bet on the First Outcome: Survive and Thrive.  Maybe I’m just delirious that I’m over my flu, my son is over his cold, my daughter is recovered from a case of croup and the weekend is finally here.  Whatever the reason, right this second I’m optimistic about Barton’s chances to do something positive for the 2012 A’s.

You have to figure Carter is finally going to get the chance to sink or swim at DH, the Kila Monster is going to whiff his way down to Triple A and Allen will find a way to stick as a backup at first base/outfield/DH if good old Mr. Barton plays the way he’s capable of.

The A’s tendered the man a contract for 2012 so they must be interested in seeing what he has to offer the club and the only way to figure that out is to play him every day in the big leagues.  Call me crazy, but I think Barton has the potential to settle in as a decent, though unconventional, No. 3 hitter in Oakland’s lineup this year if he can just regain some confidence and finally learn to be more aggressive when he’s ahead in the count.

Let Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp do their thing at the top of the order with Barton giving them a chance to steal bases while he runs up the pitch count on the way to a walk or a well-timed double and you could actually deliver a decent amount of scoring opportunities to whoever Melvin decides to pencil into the middle of the lineup.  It may not be pretty but it could allow the A’s to scratch out more runs than a lot of people are expecting heading into 2012.

What’s your call?  Click on the poll below to cast your vote and feel free to jump into the comments section with your take on Barton’s future.

What does 2012 hold for Daric Barton?

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